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RADIO HISTORY: RADIOGRAMS

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A very brief history of the Radiogram in UK

 The era of the radiogram began in the early 1930s when electromagnetic pick-ups were allied to electrically driven turntables and fitted into large cabinets together with radio chassis and a - generally - bigger loudspeaker than the typical table radio would be fitted with. The larger cabinets meant greater resonance and deeper tonal quality. These electric machines supplanted the traditional wind-up acoustic console gramophones and became a symbol of affluence. Electric amplification was superior to acoustic horn amplification, but radiograms were expensive. An affordable alternative was to obtain a record deck (a motor-driven turntable and pick-up assembly, mounted in a case or a box) and to plug it into the pick-up sockets of the domestic radio. There were commercial products made for this very purpose; 'Plus-a-Gram' was a company that specialised in them. The company later became known for the 'Dansette' series of record players, which of course featured built-in amplifiers.

Basic radiograms used single player units. Gradually, autochangers became popular. The earliest ones appeared in the late 1920s and some could be fitted with an acoustic tone-arm or a magnetic pick-up arm (for use with a radio as amplifier). Some of these could play a stacked mix of 12” or 10” but all before circa 1950 were single speed – 78 rpm shellac discs. Sets of 78 rpm records were recorded on a series of records to be played consecutively on such autochangers, allowing the listener to enjoy longer musical works. By the close of the 1940s in America, both the long-playing record (10” and 12” versions) and the 45 rpm single and extended play disc appeared and for a time were vying for sales but the market soon accepted both recording forms. This caused the introduction of multi-speed autochange units with high output lightweight pick-ups, either crystal or ceramic. Into the 1950s, the radiogram was held in high esteem and millions were produced.  Big cabinets, often lavishly veneered with quality timbers and highly finished and quite generally in appearance pieces of cabinet-maker’s traditional furniture, became once more a symbol of post-war affluence.

Mid-1950s saw the introduction of FM radio transmission in the UK, then in 1958, stereo records appeared. The original monophonic radiograms were not ideal for adaptation to stereo use though many radiograms were converted by means of a special pick-up cartridge and a second amplifier and loudspeaker. New production stereo radiograms sometimes placed the speakers at either end of the long, low Scandinavian style cabinets that became popular for a time, instead of opting for the bulkier separate second speaker. The 78rpm monophonic shellac disc stayed around throughout the 1950s but finally lost ground to the so-called silent surfaces of the microgroove LP and 45rpm recordings.

  Into the 1970s, the radiogram began to appear anachronistic; too large for the modern home or flat where space was at something of a premium and table radiograms and even record players such as Dansette produced could be found with a simple radio tuner addition, making the record player into a basic radiogram.

 As the development of solid state electronics overtook vacuum tube (valve) technology, miniaturisation became the buzzword and the stereo music centre supplanted the venerable radiogram. These often had cassette tape facilities as well as a record player and an AM/FM radio. Almost gone forever was the large timber craftsman built and highly decorative radiogram cabinet, and in its place was plastic, often with ‘pretend’ timber grain-printed panels.

 

 

 

Aerodyne's contribution to UK radiogram production was this Art Deco extravaganza.  It's stylish looks belied it's simple insides, consisting of a standard AERODYNE radio chassis and a single playing 78rpm record deck.

 

VINTAGE RADIO world: SIXTEEN YEARS OF WEB PRESENCE